La Crosse Schools long-range facility planning
LA CROSSE, Wis., (June 17, 2021) – The School District of La Crosse is evaluating its buildings to develop a long-range facility plan that will provide the best possible learning environments for students now and into the future. While there are some existing challenges, there are also some wonderful opportunities.
The two primary challenges the School District of La Crosse faces are declining enrollment and aging buildings. Over the last 20 years, the district’s enrollment has declined by over 1,400 students. School districts are funded on a per-pupil basis so a loss of enrollment results in a loss of revenue dollars to educate students.
The district also has less need for the number of facilities it has due to fewer students in the buildings. Many steps have been taken to account for the loss of revenue including reducing the number of staff, eliminating overhead by consolidating two schools and building Northside Elementary, and cutting budgets. Despite these efforts, declining enrollment has led to deficit budgets impacting the opportunities available to students and the ability to retain high-quality staff.
The school district also currently maintains a series of aging buildings at the end of their designed life cycles. Five of the district buildings are over 80 years old. While these schools are safe and acceptable for educating students, they require tens of millions of dollars in maintenance to bring them up to modern codes and to address critical needs. These structures were designed for education in the 1920s and 1930s, not 2021. Even with additions and ongoing upkeep, these older structures will never provide the modern educational environments students deserve for 21st-century learning expectations.
“We have an opportunity to provide schools that meet the high bar set by our students and our community for educating children today,” said La Crosse Superintendent Dr. Aaron Engel. “We have an opportunity to provide proper spaces for collaboration, small group learning, music, drama, special education, early childhood, STEM, and much more. We have an opportunity to create efficiencies so we can reinvest in the modern expectations our community has of public education including socio-emotional and mental health supports. And we have an opportunity to provide educational facilities that meet the needs of our school families, our neighborhoods, and the greater La Crosse area. Our Northside and Hamilton Elementary School projects demonstrate how schools designed for the community’s needs can have a powerful, positive impact on our students, families, and neighborhoods.”
Over the next six months, the school district will be interacting with the community to learn more about its expectations for modern learning environments for its students. The district will host several community focus groups for residents interested in the district’s facility planning and explore ideas for the future of the school buildings in the city of La Crosse. The feedback from the focus groups will help to develop the district’s next long-range facility plan.